A LOOK BACK AT 2017: Daily Times Leader’s top 10 stories of the year

Staff Writer

It was an interesting year in West Point, with new business developments, administrative shakeups and athletic triumphs.

Here are the top 10 stories that appeared in the Daily Times Leader in 2017.

- Magnolia's at the Ritz opens downtown

Magnolia's at the Ritz opened for business Feb. 15 on Commerce Street, taking the place of the former Cafe Ritz. The restaurant, which is open for lunch, offers upscale Southern cuisine including plate lunches, appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches and unique entrees. Magnolia's at the Ritz is owned by Ray Hamilton, who also owns Anthony's Good Food Market. The interior of the restaurant was designed and painted by local artist Deborah Mansfield. Hamilton acquired the lease of the building from Milton Sundbeck in 2016, and the West Point-Clay County Growth Alliance took over operation of the adjoining Ritz theater and conference center. Magnolia's at the Ritz is available to cater parties and events at the Ritz.

- Mayor, Board of Selectmen elected May 2

Mayor Robbie Robinson beat Homer Ryland, Jr. in the primary city election on May 2. Robinson received 63.6 percent of the votes with 2,164 votes, while Ryland, Jr. received 36.3 percent of votes with 1,245 votes. A run-off was held between Ward 1 Selectman Linda Hannah and Leta Turner on May 16. Turner secured the runoff with 247 votes, while Hannah received 199. William Binder was elected Ward 2 Selectman after running uncontested and received 429 votes. Ken Poole was elected Ward 3 Selectman with 377 votes. Jimmy Clark received 346 votes. Keith McBrayer was elected Ward 4 Selectman with 853 votes. McBrayer was later voted as vice mayor by the Board of Selectmen. Jasper Pittman was elected Ward 5 Selectman with 441 votes. Gary Dedeaux received 317 votes and LaTrenda Fenton received 46 votes. In terms of turnout, 45.7 percent of registered voters in the city voted in the city's primary election. The Mayor and Board of Selectmen were sworn into office July 3 by Circuit Judge Lee Coleman in a ceremony at City Hall.

- Two arrested for double-murder

On March 17, the Clay County Sheriff’s Department arrested, with help from the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, Shundray Johnson, 22, of Mantee, and Taberrius Coffee, 24, of Calhoun City, and charged each with two counts of murder. The arrests were in connection to the deaths of Kentario Boyd, 23, and Kenya Campbell, 23, both of Tupelo. The pair were discovered shot in their vehicle on the afternoon of March 14 on Dixie Road in western Clay County.

- Mary Holmes College building demolished

The main building of the former Mary Holmes College was torn down in June. Community Counseling Services (CCS), which operated under the Regional Foundation for Mental Health and Mental Retardation — or “The Foundation — has owned the Mary Holmes property since 2010. Officials said the buildings that were still in good condition were saved and renovated, but the big building in the front was too far gone and posed safety concerns. The main building was full of asbestos and needed to be removed. Jane Scott with CCS and director of the Project Homestead Food Pantry said renovating the building would have been impossible due to the asbestos and other health hazards.

- Brinkley retires, Cook named WPPD chief

West Point Police Chief Tim Brinkley officially announced his retirement in July and the Board of Selectmen named Avery Cook as his replacement in September. Cook was born and raised in West Point and has worked in law enforcement for 18 years. His first 13 years were with the West Point Police Department, moving up in the ranks and serving as assistant chief at one point. The last five years, he has worked as a deputy with the Clay County Sheriff’s Department.

- Twisted Burger reopens in new West Point location

The Twisted Burger reopened its doors in a new West Point location on Oct. 25 at the corner of the Mossy Oak Mall on Highway 45. The new location features a downstairs dining room that seats 45 people, an upstairs dining area with televisions and karaoke and an outdoor dining space. The new menu includes a few changes, including “Build a Burger” option in which customers can choose between a brioche bun and kaiser roll and a traditional twisted patty or turkey burger. The meat and seasonings at Twisted Burger are mixed in-house daily and never frozen, and all the produce used is locally grown. The french fries are
also cut by hand daily, and the restaurant's sauces, including ranch, barbecue, comeback sauce and honey mustard, are all homemade. The restaurant serves numerous beers and has locally-brewed beers on tap.
Twisted Burger also has a Columbus location. Twisted Burger was previously located downtown, but renovation plans fell through and the restaurant closed. The new location opened almost exactly two years after the previous West Point restaurant closed.

- McMillian, Davis plea guilty in Huddle House assault

Marquavious "Frankie" McMillian, 34, pleaded guilty on Oct. 9 to one count of aggravated assault in connection to an altercation at the Huddle House in West Point in 2014. Kenneth "Kent" Davis, 26, pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated assault from the same incident. Davis was sentenced to 10 years with the Mississippi Department of Corrections, five years suspended, five years to serve followed by five years post-release supervision. McMillian was sentenced to eight years with six suspended, and two years to serve and five years on post release supervision. The assault, which took place Aug. 23, 2014, left the victim in a coma. The altercation began at Waffle House, but later the assault by multiple men occurred in the parking lot of the Huddle House. The assault was found not to be motivated by race or the victim’s military service. The third man involved in the assault, Courtez McMillan, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in April, and most of his seven year sentence was suspended so he was released on the the day of his sentencing after receiving credit for the 20 months he had already served in jail. He is serving probation and was fined $1,000.

- Deal on Americold site moves forward

A series of resolutions was approved in October at a joint city-county meeting that would open the door for a major economic development project to bring $50 million in capital investment and roughly 300 jobs to the area at the former Americold site on Church Hill Road. Mayor Robbie Robinson said in December the city is close to pulling the trigger on PECO, the poultry producer that will take up residence at the facility. Robinson said PECO was near the point where it could start renovating the building. The company, which provides the poultry for companies like Buffalo Wild Wings, will bring in 300 jobs in four years. PECO is the eighth largest poultry producer in the U.S. The facility has 172,000 square feet, plus office space and will include a $4 million pre-treatment facility.

- Green Wave wins back-to-back state titles

The West Point Green Wave - led by 5A Mr. Football and Mississippi State commit Marcus Murphy - capped off a 15-0 perfect season in Oxford, defeating Hattiesburg 41-15. Murphy finished the night with 226 yards and four touchdowns on 23 rushing attempts, while throwing for 81 yards on 7-of-9 attempts. Murphy was awarded the Class 5A state championship’s player-of-the-game for the second year in a row. West Point finished 15-0, setting a record for most wins in school history and finished undefeated for the first time since 1989. The 2017 title made it nine state championships for the Green Wave in school history. The win represented Head coach Chris Chambless’ fourth state championship with West Point.

- Arrest made in fatal Thanksgiving Day fire

The daughter-in-law of a 62-year-old bedridden fire victim is being held without bond after being charged with capital murder in his death on Thanksgiving Day. West Point Police Detective Eric Johnson and Chief Avery Cook announced 37-year-old Latoria Jennae Brownlee was arrested on Dec. 20 in connection with the murder. She is charged with setting the Thanksgiving Day fire that killed her husband's father, William Brownlee Sr., as he lay in his bed in the home the family, which includes two daughters, shared at 86 Washington St. The fire was reported at about 4:10 p.m. after neighborhood children outside playing reported smoke and flames pouring from the elder Brownlee's bedroom window. After the fire was extinguished, he was found in his bed. Latoria Brownlee arrived on the fire scene a few minutes after firefighters and told emergency responders the elderly man still was inside the 14-month-old house.